Australia's M&A recruitment market sizzling

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Australia is Asia-Pacific's most popular target for mergers and acquisitions and now ranks ninth in the world, with recruitment activity matching the money.

"We've been run off our feet for some time," says Victoria Biggs, M&A specialist at Jon Michel Executive Search.

"Banks at the top end of the market are picking off people from the medium-tier firms. Medium-tier firms are more likely to consider those laterally entering the industry from law or chartered accountancy, while the lower tier of the corporate finance market is looking for financial modelling and analysis skills," she adds.

Biggs says both base salaries and bonuses have risen since 2002-03, but it is bonuses which have made the more significant moves. "In a buoyant market like this, bonuses might be 150%, whereas in a weak market they may be 30-40%."

Oliver Darkes, principal consultant at Carmichael Fisher, says the market remains in skills shortage.

"There's a lot of lateral hiring by the investment banks, picking up second and third-year lawyers, and picking up a lot of people out of transaction services and valuations areas from the professional services companies like Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. That's at the junior analyst and associate levels.

"When these people go to the investment banks they get conservatively a 30-40% pay rise, to anywhere up to AU$130k base. The accounting firms can't match that."

According to Darkes, however, the investment banks are "very choosy".

"It is difficult for a graduate to go straight into M&A. If they're chosen, they can go into M&A on AU$60k to AU$70k base."

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